Sarah or Sara (/ˈsɛərə/ SAIR; Hebrew: שָׂרָה, Modern Sara, Tiberian Śārā ISO 259-3 Śarra; Latin: Sara; Arabic: سارا or سارة Sāra;) was the wife and also the half–sister of Abraham[2] and the mother of Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. Her name was originally Sarai. According to Genesis 17:15, God changed her name to Sarah as part of a covenant after Hagar bore Abraham his first son, Ishmael.

The Hebrew name Sarah indicates a woman of high rank and is translated as "princess" or "noblewoman".[4]

In the Hebrew Bible

Sarah was the wife of Abraham, and his half-sister. Sarah was approximately ten years younger than her husband.

She was considered beautiful to the point that Abraham feared that when they were near more powerful rulers she would be taken away and given to another man. Twice he purposely identified her as being only his sister so that he would be "treated well" for her sake. No reason is given why Sarah remained barren (childless) for a long period of time. She was originally called "Sarai", which is translated "my princess". Later she was called "Sarah", i.e., "princess".

Departure from Ur

Terah, with Abram (as he was then called), Sarai and Lot, departed for Canaan, but stopped in a place named Haran, where Terah remained until he died at the age of 205.[5] The LORD had told Abram to leave his country and his father's house for a land that he would show him, promising to make of him a great nation, bless him, make his name great, bless those who blessed him, and curse "him" that curses him.[6] Following God's command Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the wealth and persons that they had acquired, and traveled to Shechem in Canaan. Abram was 75 at this time.[7]

Pharaoh's harem

There was a severe famine in the land of Canaan, so that Abram and Lot and their households, travelled south to Egypt. On the journey to Egypt, Abram instructed Sarai to identify herself only as his sister, fearing that the Egyptians would kill him in order to take his wife, saying, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'this is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you." When brought before Pharaoh, Sarai said that Abram was her brother, and the king thereupon took her into his palace and bestowed upon the latter many presents and marks of distinction. It is possible that Sarai acquired her Egyptian handmaid Hagar during this stay. However, God afflicted Pharaoh's household with great plagues.[8] Pharaoh then realized that Sarai was Abram's wife and demanded that they leave Egypt immediately.[9]

Hagar and Ishmael

After having lived in Canaan for ten years and still childless, Sarai suggested that Abram have a child with her Egyptian handmaid Hagar, to which he agreed. This resulted in tension between Sarai and Hagar, and Sarai complained to her husband that the handmaid no longer respected her.[10] At one point, Hagar fled from her mistress but returned after angels met her. She gave birth to Abram's son Ishmael when Abram was eighty-six years old.[11]


In when Abram was ninety-nine years old, God declared his new name: "Abraham" – "a father of many nations", and gave him the covenant of circumcision. God gave Sarai the new name "Sarah", and blessed her.[12] Abraham was given assurance that Sarah would have a son. Not long afterwards, Abraham and Sarah were visited by three men. One of the visitors told Abraham that upon his return next year, Sarah would have a son. While at the tent entrance, Sarah overheard what was said, and she laughed to herself about the prospect of having a child at their ages. The visitor inquired of Abraham why Sarah laughed at the idea of bearing a child, for her age was as nothing to God. Sarah soon became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham, at the very time which had been spoken. The patriarch, then a hundred years old, named the child "Isaac" (Hebrew yitschaq, "laughter") and circumcised him when he was eight days old.[13] For Sarah, the thought of giving birth and nursing a child, at such an old age, also brought her much laughter, as she declared, "God hath made me to laugh, [so that] all that hear will laugh with me."[14] Abraham held a great feast on the day when Isaac was to be weaned. It was during this banquet that Sarah happened upon the then teenaged Ishmael mocking[15] and was so disturbed that she requested that both he and Hagar be removed from their company.[2] Abraham was initially distressed by this but relented when told by God to do as his wife had asked.[2]


After being visited by the three men, Abraham and Sarah settled between Kadesh and Shur in the land of the Philistines. While he was living in Gerar, Abraham again claimed that Sarah was his sister. King Abimelech subsequently had her brought to him. Later, God came to Abimelech in a dream and declared that taking her would result in death because she was a married woman. Abimelech, who had not laid hands on her, inquired if he would also slay a righteous nation, especially since Abraham had claimed that he and Sarah were siblings. In response, God told Abimelech that he did indeed have a blameless heart and that was why he continued to exist. However, if he did not return Sarah to Abraham, God would surely destroy Abimelech and his entire household. Abimelech was informed that Abraham was a prophet who would pray for him.[2]

Early next morning, Abimelech informed his servants of his dream and approached Abraham inquiring as to why he had brought such great guilt upon his kingdom. Abraham replied that he thought there was no fear of God in that place, and that they might kill him for his wife. Then Abraham defended what he had said as not being a lie at all: "And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife."[2] Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham, and gave him gifts of sheep, oxen, and servants; and invited him to settle wherever he pleased in Abimelech's lands. Further, Abimelech gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver to serve as Sarah's vindication before all. Abraham then prayed for Abimelech and his household, since God had stricken the women with infertility because of the taking of Sarah.[2]


Sarah, who died at the age of 127, is the only woman in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) whose age is given.[2] Abraham buried her in the Cave of the Patriarchs (also called the Cave of Machpelah), near Hebron which he had purchased, along with the adjoining field, from Ephron the Hittite and laid her to rest in the cave.[2]

Family tree

Ishmaelites7 sons[2]Bethuel1st daughter2nd daughter
1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Dinah
7. Gad
8. Asher
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
12. Joseph
13. Benjamin

In rabbinic literature

The Talmud[2] identifies Sarai with Iscah, daughter of Abraham's deceased brother Haran,[4] so that in this Sarah turns out to be the niece of Abraham and the sister of Lot and Milcah. Rashi on Genesis 20:12 She is [indeed] my sister, my father's daughter. - And the daughter of [one's] father [from a different mother] is permitted to a son of Noah, [i.e., a non-Jew], for there is no [ halachic relationship {with regard to forbidden marriages} through] paternity for non-Jews. In order to bear out his words he answered him {Avimelech} thus. And if you will say [by way of objection], is it not true that she was the daughter of his brother (Sanhedrin 58b), [and not his father? The answer is that] the children of children are like [one's own] children (Yevamos 62b. In his comments to Exodus 18:1, Rashi explains that "young children call their father's father, 'Father'.") and [Sarah] is thus [considered] the daughter of Terah, [Abraham's father, for she was the daughter of Haran, another son of Terah].[4]

Pharaoh's harem

When brought before Pharaoh, Sarah said that Abraham was her brother, and the king thereupon bestowed upon the latter many presents and marks of distinction. As a token of his love for Sarai the king deeded his entire property to her, and gave her the land of Goshen as her hereditary possession: for this reason the Israelites subsequently lived in that land.[4] Sarai prayed to God to deliver her from the king, and He thereupon sent an angel, who struck Pharaoh whenever he attempted to touch her. Pharaoh was so astonished at these blows that he spoke kindly to Sarai, who confessed that she was Abraham's wife. The king then ceased to annoy her. According to another version, Pharaoh persisted in annoying her after she had told him that she was a married woman; thereupon the angel struck him so violently that he became ill, and was thereby prevented from continuing to trouble her.[4] According to one tradition it was when Pharaoh saw these miracles wrought in Sarai's behalf that he gave her his daughter Hagar as slave, saying: "It is better that my daughter should be a slave in the house of such a woman than mistress in another house." Abimelech acted likewise.[4] Sarah is the sister of Abram by another mother and wife of Abram as described in the Hebrew Bible (the Book of Genesis). In Genesis 17:15, God changes her name to Sarah (princess) "a woman of high rank") as part of the covenant with El Shaddai after Hagar bears Abram his first born son Ishmael. (Hebrew: שָׂרָה, Standard Sara Tiberian Śārāh ; Arabic: 'سارة, Sārah; The name Sarai uses the semitic root Šarai or law and like El has the sense of power, authority, lord, deity, natural law, law as might be expected for the lady of the house. The Hebrew name Sarah indicates a woman of high rank (less than that of 1st wife) and is sometimes translated as "princess."

Relations with Hagar

Sarai treated Hagar well, and induced women who came to visit her to visit Hagar also. Hagar, when pregnant by Abraham, began to act superciliously toward Sarai, provoking the latter to treat her harshly, to impose heavy work upon her, and even to strike her.[4] Some believe Sarai was originally destined to reach the age of 175 years, but forty-eight years of this span of life were taken away from her because she complained of Abraham, blaming him as though he was the cause that Hagar no longer respected her.[4] Sarah was sterile; but a miracle was granted to her[4] after her name was changed from "Sarai" to "Sarah". According to one myth, when her fertility had been restored and she had given birth to Isaac, the people would not believe in the miracle, saying that the patriarch and his wife had adopted a foundling and pretended that it was their own son. Abraham thereupon invited all the notabilities to a banquet on the day when Isaac was to be weaned. Sarah invited the women, also, who brought their infants with them; and on this occasion she gave milk from her breasts to all the strange children, thus convincing the guests of the miracle.


Legends connect Sarah's death with the attempted sacrifice of Isaac, however, there are two versions of the story. According to one, Samael came to her and said: "Your old husband seized the boy and sacrificed him. The boy wailed and wept; but he could not escape from his father." Sarah began to cry bitterly, and ultimately died of her grief. According to the other legend, Satan came to Sarah disguised as an old man, and told her that Isaac had been sacrificed. Believing it to be true, she cried bitterly, but soon comforted herself with the thought that the sacrifice had been offered at the command of God. She started from Beer-sheba to Hebron, asking everyone she met if he knew in which direction Abraham had gone. Then Satan came again in human shape and told her that it was not true that Isaac had been sacrificed, but that he was living and would soon return with his father. Sarah, on hearing this, died of joy at Hebron. Abraham and Isaac returned to their home at Beer-sheba, and, not finding Sarah there, went to Hebron, where they discovered her dead. According to the Genesis Rabbah, during Sarah's lifetime her house was always hospitably open, the dough was miraculously increased, a light burned from Saturday evening to Saturday evening, and a pillar of cloud rested upon the entrance to her tent.